The relationship between tuberculosis (TB), one of the leading infectious causes of death worldwide, and the microbiome, which is critical for health, is poorly understood.
To identify potential microbiome-host interactions, profiling of the oral, sputum and stool microbiota [n = 58 cases, n = 47 culture-negative symptomatic controls (SCs)] and whole blood transcriptome were done in pre-treatment presumptive pulmonary TB patients. This was a cross-sectional study. Microbiota were also characterised in close contacts of cases (CCCs, n = 73) and close contacts of SCs (CCSCs, n = 82) without active TB.
Cases and SCs each had similar α- and β-diversities in oral washes and sputum, however, β-diversity differed in stool (PERMANOVA p = 0•035). Cases were enriched with anaerobes in oral washes, sputum (Paludibacter, Lautropia in both) and stool (Erysipelotrichaceae, Blautia, Anaerostipes) and their stools enriched in microbial genes annotated as amino acid and carbohydrate metabolic pathways. In pairwise comparisons with their CCCs, cases had Megasphaera-enriched oral and sputum microbiota and Bifidobacterium-, Roseburia-, and Dorea-depleted stools. Compared to their CCSCs, SCs had reduced α-diversities and many differential taxa per specimen type. Cases differed transcriptionally from SCs in peripheral blood (PERMANOVA p = 0•001). A co-occurrence network analysis showed stool taxa, Erysipelotrichaceae and Blautia, to negatively co-correlate with enriched “death receptor” and “EIF2 signalling” pathways whereas Anaerostipes positively correlated with enriched “interferon signalling”, “Nur77 signalling” and “inflammasome” pathways; all of which are host pathways associated with disease severity. In contrast, none of the taxa enriched in SCs correlated with host pathways.
TB-specific microbial relationships were identified in oral washes, induced sputum, and stool from cases before the confounding effects of antibiotics. Specific anaerobes in cases’ stool predict upregulation of pro-inflammatory immunological pathways, supporting the gut microbiota’s role in TB.
European & Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership, South African-Medical Research Council, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Copyright © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.